I get it. Yesterday everything was fine for you. You knew who you were going to vote for next month, you knew what movie you were going to go see this weekend, what album you were going to buy. You knew who’d work with you on this project or who you’d call for advice. Everything was good for you.
But then, you heard this news about how maybe this person you were going to support or go to lunch with wasn’t a very good person at all. And ugh did that ever screw up your day.
And you’re shocked. Shocked! How could this happen to you, personally? How could you possibly be asked to make the impossible choice of having to give up your favorite friend or movie or politician? You simply can’t. So before you had a chance to stop it, your brain said to itself: figure out a way to make it not true.
Wow. What a relief, you thought. This was really going to make things hard for me, but I’ve come up with a solution so I don’t have to make a hard choice. There’s a high likelihood these stories aren’t even true. Because women lie. Yes, that’s it. Women lie, and the media lies, and…it was so long ago! And, maybe there’s a religious reasoning I can call on, too? Can you help me there? Also, maybe I could demonize the victims or the lawyers for the victims or blame the messenger? Perhaps if I spend enough time thinking about the evil of the other side, I won’t have to think about the evil of my own. Wouldn’t that be nice?
One in four women are sexually assaulted in their lives, and I would estimate nearly 100% of women are sexually harassed. And we are not sexually assaulted and harassed by phantoms.
Most of us are the victims of men. And these men, whether you want to think about it or not, they’re everywhere. They’re in the movies you watch, in the legislative bodies you elect, in your offices. You jam out to them at concerts. They’re sitting in the church pews and standing on the pulpit. They’re wearing uniforms and coaching your kid’s soccer practice. And yes, I hate to tell you, they’re sitting down at your dinner table.
And I get that finding that out, it’s really hard. Ask any woman and she’ll tell you about the first time her heart broke because she realized men would try to hurt her for her whole life. Ask any woman about the first time a man violated her space, reminded her she wasn’t safe in any place. Ask any woman about the way she has to measure whether she should smile or confront, how fast she has to walk to get home, the numbers she has on speed dial just in case.
So, you’ve built ivory towers and you’re watching them crumble and it’s hard. I get that. You’ve spent 20 years or 50 years or 70 years believing that these men were good, and now you’ve found out they’re not. Women, we’ve never had that privilege. I was five years old the first time I was assaulted, and so I didn’t have time to believe that men wouldn’t hurt me. Some of us, if we’re lucky, we get 10 or 15 years of the bliss of imagined safety. None of us get as long as you.
So please, if you’re not going to intercede, at least respect us enough to reckon with this. Let go of the automatic defenses you put up to protect yourself from the pain of the truth, the changes you’d have to make in your life as a result of that recognition. Listen to us. We’re trying to tell you about a world we’ve lived in all along, and we believe you are beginning to see it. We’re hopeful that if you keep your eyes open, you’ll recognize what we’ve known all along. We’re hoping it will matter to you, that you’ll help us. Please don’t shut your eyes now.